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Essential First Aid Skills for Cyclists

Essential First Aid Skills for Cyclists

According to road safety charity Brake, more than 100 cyclists die on UK roads each year. While the vast majority of cycling accidents and injuries are non-fatal, first aid on the scene is often imperative to save lives, minimise damage, and give the victim a better chance of recovery.

From blisters to broken bones, you need to know you can look after your own health and safety as a cyclist on the road. Having a first-class cycling first aid kit is only half the protection. Read on to make sure you know how to administer first aid after bike accidents.

Contents

Injured Cyclist

Cuts

Falling from your bike, whipping past an obstruction on the road like a branch, collisions with cars and other cyclists. Cuts are a common injury when cycling, particularly in mountain bike first aid travelling off-road. Most cuts can be treated on the road or at home. Deeper, larger cuts or cuts with objects embedded in them will need to be seen by a professional and may require stitches.

Cyclists should make sure their tetanus vaccinations are up to date to protect against tetanus, a rare but serious disease contracted by clostridium tetani entering the bloodstream, usually through a cut.

What to Do

1. If you’ve been cut be sure to fully clean the wound and dress it to make sure you remove sufficient levels of bacteria to help the wound heal properly without getting infected. Sanitise your hands or put on disposable gloves. If you’re treating someone else be sure to wear disposable gloves if you need to touch their blood.

2. Clean the wound with a gentle wound wash. If you use wound wash ampoules like ours it’ll be easy for you to squirt the wound wash over the area with precision.

3. Use a gentle, alcohol-free wipe to wipe the wound of any remaining debris.

4. If the wound won’t close or if you feel it could open up again (for example, if it’s on a joint), use some sutures to hold the wound closed.

5. Cover the wound. Depending on its size you may only need to apply a plaster. Otherwise, you could use an adhesive dressing or a larger wound dressing, wrapped in a conforming bandage if it is more severe.

What You Need to Treat Cuts

When to Seek Medical Attention

  • When something large is embedded in the wound or something is embedded too deeply to remove.
  • When the wound will not stop bleeding or will not close up.
  • If the wound shows signs of infection in the days after the injury (hot and hard to the touch, swollen and red, containing pus, giving off a bad smell).

Road Rash

Road rash is a type of skin abrasion that causes the outer layer of skin to be rubbed or ripped away, leaving underlayers exposed and an open wound. Road rash can be anything from a mild graze to an injury several layers deep that requires skin grafting. Cycling first aid for road rash can be carried out on the road or at home most of the time.

What to Do

1. The objective with bike accident first aid for road rash is to clean the wound to minimise the chance of injection and then dress it to make sure the wound stays clean and protected while it heals. This will help to speed the healing process up and reduce the risk of scarring.

2. Sanitise your hands or put on a pair of disposable gloves (this is especially important if you’re treating someone else and will come into contact with their body fluids).

3. Road rash often results in pieces of gravel or dirt in the wound where it rubbed against the ground. Use a pair of tweezers to extract debris from the wound. Do not insert tweezers into the wound if debris is deeply embedded. You will need to visit a medical professional to have it removed safely.

4. Clean the injury. A road rash can be quite painful so choose gentle wound cleaning products like saline wound wash and alcohol-free wipes that won’t cause distress or harm the area further. You do not need to keep the wound dry, in fact keeping the wound moist will help the injury heal more quickly.

5. Cover the wound with a dressing. Depending on the size of the wound you might be able to use an adhesive wound dressing that sticks directly to the skin around the trauma area like a large plaster. Otherwise, you may need to apply a dressing and hold it in place with a bandage.

What You Need to Treat Road Rash

When to Seek Medical Attention

  • When debris is deeply embedded in the wound and you can’t remove it
  • When muscle or bone is visible
  • When the injury is very large
  • The wound doesn’t stop bleeding or pus or exudate is coming from the wound

Cyclist Putting Helmet On

Head Injuries

Wearing a cycling helmet is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from serious injury on a bike. While landing on your shoulder or rear could give you a serious road rash, landing on your head could be fatal.

What to Do

1. Use common sense to determine how serious the head injury is. Check for signs of concussion by asking simple questions or asking the casualty to do simple commands like hold up three fingers. If they don’t respond properly or don’t seem quite normal call 999 and seek medical assistance.

2. Keep an eye on the casualty until emergency services arrive.

3. If the casualty has suffered a head injury, they might be experiencing heavy bleeding. Check there is nothing stuck in the wound and clean the wound with wound wash and an alcohol-free wipe if it is not showing heavy blood loss. Remember to sanitise your hands and use disposable gloves if you plan to clean a wound.

4. If the wound is bleeding heavily, apply pressure to the wound using a padded dressing and call 999.

What You Need to Treat a Head Injury

When to Seek Medical Attention

  • If the casualty has a severe head wound that is losing a lot of blood or covers a large area.
  • If the casualty is not responding to questions or requests correctly.
  • If the casualty’s behaviour seems ‘off’.

Fractures

Accidents that happen at speed can result in fractures. A fracture is a crack or break in a bone. Open fractures are when fragments of bone penetrate through the skin. Closed fractures are those under the skin’s surface.

These are more common in high-speed cycling sports like road cycling, or on hazardous terrain like mountain biking. But fractures can also happen as a result of a traffic collision in the middle of the city. A fracture will need to be seen by a professional but there are some things you should do in the moments after the injury.

Signs of a fracture include pain and difficulty moving the area; swelling, bruising, or unusual shape; movement in an unnatural direction and grating noises coming from the area; shock symptoms and loss of strength.

What to Do

1. Have the casualty remain still and call 999.

2. Do not move the casualty unless they are in danger in their current position. Support the fractured area with padding such as bags and coats but do not force it into a specific position.

3. If you need to move the casualty secure the fractured limb with a sling or fasten it to an injured body part. Ask others to help you move the casualty if you can.

4. If the bone has broken the skin, wash the area by pouring sterile wound wash over it and apply a clean dressing, taking care not to apply pressure to the wound. Don’t forget to sanitise your hands and put on disposable gloves if you’re going to treat a wound.

5. Check the casualty for signs of shock and help them to stay responsive by calmly talking to them. Use a foil blanket or extra clothing to keep them warm.

What You Need to Treat a Fracture

When to Seek Medical Attention

You should always seek medical attention immediately following a fracture as the casualty will need to be treated by a professional.

First aid is your first defence against injuries on the road, but what about aftercare or injuries caused by repetitive cycling? Read our article How to Treat Common Cycling Injuries to find out what to do. We also cover how to prevent common cycling injuries to help cyclists look after their bodies and make the most of one of the healthiest ways to travel.

Coach Checking On Sprained Ankle

Cycling Coaches and Trainers: Responsibilities

To be insured as a cycling coach or trainer under British Cycling, the national governing body of cycling in the UK, you must pass a first aid course and hold a certificate. During the Covid-19 pandemic, virtual first aid qualifications were accepted but these will no longer be accepted following January 31st 2022. A face-to-face first aid course should now be completed. See all of the changes following January 31st 2022 here.

The cycling injuries and first aid course must be delivered by an accredited provider and should include a practical assessment of administering CPR, the recovery position, stopping bleeding, and assisting with choking.

Find out more on the British Cycling First Aid Requirements page.

Don’t Forget Your Cycling First Aid Kit

Make your life easier by ordering a cycling first aid kit. Our bike first aid kits include the items listed in this article, all neatly tucked away in a compact, light bag that you can take with you on rides.

Make sure you’re backed up by first aid equipment that won’t let you down. Read our guides on what to include in a cycling first aid kit for different types of cycling. We also offer a comprehensive guide to what should be on a cycling first aid contents list.


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